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How To Clean Headphone Jack (4 Easy Ways Without Damage)

Headphone jacks are certainly a thing of convenience when they work! Actually, they’re typically very durable and long-lasting, so long as you manage to keep them clean. As it’s an open port, that's not always the easiest thing to do, with dust and lint accumulating over time.  

A dirty headphone jack can affect how well headphones work and can keep them from operating entirely! To make sure you're always tuned in to your favorite tracks (or can hear the other person you're FaceTiming with), stay tuned and read through our guide in its entirety!  

We’ll cover exactly how to clean headphone jack for optimal performance.  

You’ve almost certainly used a headphone jack before. It’s that little circular port on the bottom of many smartphones, tablets, laptops, DJ mixers, and more.

They're typically used for communication of some kind, mainly for plugging in headphones so you can enjoy music or a conversation without others listening in. It is typically an analog socket and comes in various sizes: 2.5mm or 3.5mm.  

However, as we just mentioned, they are an open port, which means that there isn't much protection from dust and debris making their way in. While a little bit of dust is expected, over time, it can lead to connection issues, low audio quality, or can even prevent you from using your headphones completely. 

This is because headphone plugs (male) must create an electrical connection with the jack (female) in order for the audio signal to flow and let you hear your music. Dust and debris can block this connection from being established.  

woman listening to music using headphones

Common Issues With Dirty Headphone Jacks  

Let's quickly cover some of the most common problems you can encounter with headphone jacks that haven't been cleaned properly.  

  • Audio Problems 
    As we previously mentioned, audio issues can occur with dirty headphone jacks. These may be expressed with a static-y sound, a muffled/less powerful sound signal, or even just one side of the headphone working. As grime and oxidation can keep the jack and the plug from establishing a solid connection, this is often an issue. 
  • Loose Headphone Jack 
    If you feel like the plug isn't "snapping" or fitting into the jack properly, it is likely due to dirt inside (unless the plug itself is damaged). Perhaps the plug may feel a bit loose, or that you have to keep reconnecting it. 
  • Stuck In Headphone Mode 
    Many of us have experienced this before, where your laptop or phone seems like it isn’t playing any sound even though you don’t have any headphones plugged in. This is because it’s essentially stuck in headphone mode, because it’s registering like something is inside the jack when it’s really dirt instead of a plug. 
black heaphones on cement ground

4 Easy Ways To Clean Headphone Jack (Step-By-Step Guide)

The good news is that there are tons of ways to clean a headphone jack. Some are a bit more time-consuming and tedious, while others are pretty quick and straightforward. 

1. Cotton Swab Method

This is one of the most common methods, just because pretty much everyone has cotton swabs at home.

  • Grab yourself a couple of cotton swabs and some rubbing alcohol first. 
  • Next up, make sure that your device is turned off completely (wait at least 30 seconds after you’ve turned it off).  
  • Grab one cotton swab, rolling one of the tips until it’s pointy and narrow.  
  • Insert this sharper end into the jack.  
  • Spin/turn the swab around, making sure you’re touching every surface inside.  
  • Remove the swab from the jack, rolling the other end of the cotton swab until it’s also pointy like the other.  
  • Gently dip it into the rubbing alcohol, making sure it’s wet but not so much that it’s dripping. Remember, this is still an electronic device we’re dealing with.  
  • Insert the alcohol-dipped end of the swab into the headphone jack and continue rolling it around.  
  • After about 30 seconds of this, remove the swab and insert a dry cotton swab to remove any remaining alcohol.  

2. Toothpick Method 

Toothpicks are another commonly found household item, and using it in a headphone jack is quite effective.

  • First, grab a toothpick and some cello tape.  
  • Take the toothpick and wrap some tape around an end, keeping the sticky side upwards, facing away from it.  
  • Insert the tape-wrapped end of the toothpick into the jack, ensuring it’s also securely attached to the toothpick. We don’t want the tape coming off inside the jack, as it may be difficult to retrieve.  
  • Roll the toothpick around inside the jack, making sure to touch every surface.  
  • Remove the toothpick, along with all the debris the tape has picked up! 

3. Interdental Brush Method

We absolutely love this method; however, you'll probably have to go out and buy an interdental brush as most of us don't already have some at home.

However, it's a particularly effective method if your headphone jack is worn out. Over time, due to moisture in the air, copper circuitry can oxidize. This brush can help carefully clean the corrosion. 

  • Aside from that, you’ll need a bit of rubbing alcohol.  
  • Make sure your device is turned off.  
  • Pour some rubbing alcohol into the bottle cap and gently dip the brush in it.  
  • Shake off any excess alcohol to make sure it’s not too wet.  
  • Insert the brush into the jack, rolling it around, making sure you get to every surface. Don’t be too aggressive, as you don’t want to damage the jack. 
  • Repeat this 3 times, then remove the brush and set your device aside (making sure it is dry).  

4. Compressed Air Method

This is our personal favorite method, as it’s super simple, quick, and features little-to-no risk of damaging the jack. However, it’s a bit more expensive to purchase a can of air than to simply use a Q-tip that you already have at home.

  • First, grab a can of compressed air. Make sure it’s the kind that has a thin tube that comes with it.  
  • Next up, take your device and place the straw/pipe at the entrance or inside the jack and spray the air through the small opening. This will blow the dust off and any dirt that has become stuck inside the jack. 
  • Repeat 2-3 times.  

How To Clean Headphone Jacks Of Popular Devices  

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular devices and the best way to clean them.  

Laptop/MacBook

For whatever reason, the most common method of cleaning laptop headphone jacks is by using a dry cotton Q-tip. Once again, try to twist the end to make it thinner. 

Also, try to select a less fluffy cotton tip, so it doesn't disintegrate and create even more debris inside! Follow the rest of the instructions detailed above. 

iPhone Models (8, 7, 6)

No matter the model, you need to make sure that your iPhone is turned off. Many people want to know how to clean headphone jack iPhone 8 specifically, though. As iPhones and smartphones tend to go everywhere with us, including pockets, at the bottom of bags, etc., they tend to really get grimy.

For this reason, we recommend using a toothpick or paperclip with tape at the end. If that doesn't work, use canned air to blow out any remaining debris. If you want to know how to clean out your iPhone headphone jack, just follow the instructions listed above, as all methods are effective. 

Xbox One Controller

These controllers love getting dirty! This is another time where a toothpick or Q-tip would work perfectly. Just make sure that you’re very gentle, as these jacks tend to be very delicate. 

iPod Touch

The iPod Touch is a classic we’re sure you want to use for many more years to come. If your jack is no longer working, it’s likely due to corrosion after all this time. Keeping that in mind, use a soft-bristled brush like the interdental one we already covered. 

macbook pro

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Can a headphone jack wear out?  

It can, after a while, if the corrosion inside becomes too much. However, with a soft-bristle brush, you can gently help this issue. Sometimes it's been too long, and the corrosion has become too advanced, but this isn't typically the case.  

Do I need to twist in my headphone jack?  

You shouldn’t have to. However, you may find that twisting the cord of your headphones makes the audio sound better. At that point, the issue is likely with the cord of your headphones or even your audio source! 

Is it bad to plug and unplug headphones?  

It's not ideal, that's for sure. In fact, unplugging and plugging them in can spark mechanical issues. Always aim to plug them in and remove them gently, holding onto the body of the plug instead of the wires as the wires can separate otherwise.  

Is it bad to leave headphones plugged in overnight?  

It’s just better not to. Leaving anything plugged in overnight isn’t the best idea.  

How much does it cost to fix your headphone jack?  

It depends on the device and the jack itself, but you can expect to spend around $100.  


Conclusion

Now that you're an expert in how to clean your headphone jack off just about any device go out there and get to it! We know you're excited to hear your music the way it's intended.